Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
By Kanika Rangray
Now-a-days on a daily basis, there comes a piece of news which reports the refugee crisis going on in the Gulf countries. Someone or the other talks about how the European Union (EU) is gradually, opening its arms towards the refugees of war torn countries like Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. On the contrary, Gulf countries surrounding these war-torn nations refuse to help the people who have somehow been lucky enough (if that term can be used) to escape the ongoing bloodbath.
The refugee crisis gained a brighter spotlight globally especially after the image of a 3-year-old drowned boy, Aylan Kurdi, lying face down on a beach went viral—triggering the anger and anguish of millions around the world. Those millions maybe a stranger to the boy, but the picture conveyed the monstrous consequences burdened upon the civilians making them refugees.
The beginning of the refugee crisis
The current refugee crisis has its roots in the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The West, specifically the US, has a significant role to be accountable for current situation in war-torn Syria. During the early stages of the Syrian civil war, US authorities began the aid supply to various Syrian rebel groups. This happened after reports in 2013 revealed the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government to stifle rebel fighters.
Bashar al-Assad’s government denied these accusations, but the US continued to provide support to rebel groups; and many analysts prophesised that such actions will destroy the prospects of peace in Syria and prolong the war. This wreaked more havoc.
The continuous airstrikes carried out by the US, now being planned by Australia and France as well, on Islamic State of Iran & Libya (ISIL) and Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS) has brought down a catastrophe upon the devastated civilians of the victim nations. By July-end of 2015, in Syria alone the death count was an estimated 300,000. As many as 4 million Syrians were forced to leave their homeland as a consequence of the continued war. So, even though the refugee crisis cannot be altogether left on the shoulders of the West, the role it played can also not be ignored.
As a consequence, the ISIS and ISIL retaliated with terror. The war has now been going on for so long that it is now a blur of who started it first— like answering the question “Who came first? Was it the phoenix or the flame?”
Why have the Gulf countries not stepped forward?
The ongoing crisis has left approximately 12.8 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, and more than 50 per cent of the country’s population is currently displaced. According to the latest data provided by Amnesty International, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have refused any resettlement places to Syrian refugees.
Michael Stephens, a Middle-East research fellow at Qatar’s Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, was quoted in a BBC article. He said: “Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are extremely concerned about the potential for Assad loyalists to strike back.”
He said the Gulf states were worried about security threats from Syrian refugees, fearing that they maybe loyalists of the Assad government.
The helping hand forwarded by the West
EU has already taken steps to assist political asylum to refugees. Gradually, the US and other Western countries are now allowing the refugees to their lands for resettlement.
Some are of the belief that the Western countries are obligated to do so. They claimed that they are the main catalysts behind all the destruction which has led to the forced relocation of millions. Is there an ulterior motive?
With providing help and refuge to not just few but to millions, it doesn’t only grab attention, it’s something more! It will also bring allies on the global political front due to the so-called humanitarian act. Such allies “earned by heart-touching actions” could provide you a strong and high pedestal on the global political arena and also a considerable amount of influence on the same front.
Maybe the Gulf countries have finally noticed this as suddenly out of nowhere funds begin to pour in huge amounts. According to New York Times (NYT), Kuwait contributed more than $US304 million to the United Nation’s Syria response fund this year, making it the world’s third-largest donor. Saudi Arabia donated $US 18.4 million and the UAE provided more than $US 540 million in relief and humanitarian assistance.
Irrespective of this global-political playground, maybe it is genuine help in reaction to the atrocities, the need of the hour is to be more productive. Instant measures are required for the well-being of these destitute and homeless people, who are nothing more than victims of those greedy for power.
Tenali Ramakrishna, or Tenali Raman as he is more popularly known is Birbal's equivalent in South India. A court jester and a scholar exuding great wisdom, Tenali Raman was known as one of the greatest courtiers in King Krishnadevaraya's court.
The Vijayanagar Empire ruled a large part of South India between 1336 and 1646. In the 16th century, the kingdom rose to prominence under the eminent leadership of King Krishnadevaraya. His continuous victories against his enemies ensured a successful and peaceful reign for his subjects. As a patron of art and literature, many crafts and cultural assets thrived in the empire.
Krishnadevaraya's beloved courtier, Tenali Raman is the finest example of the splendour of the Vijayanagar empire. He was born in Tenali, a town in Andhra Pradesh. He lived here until he lost his father, after which his mother brought him to Vijayanagar. He was discovered for his excellent wit and wisdom, and appointed in the court. He was one of the king's ashtadiggajas (collective name for the eight poets and scholars).
A statue of Tenali Ramakrishna near a Municipal Office in Andhra Pradesh Image source: wikimedia commons
Tenali Raman as a scholar, published great texts of wisdom, which have now become artefacts of the Kingdom of Vijayanagara. But his fame does not lie in these achievements. He is known for the mischievous jester that mythical folklore portrays him to be. Through stories, many writers have used jokes to impart wisdom and morals to many generations of people. The stories of Tenali Raman are almost legendary in the Southern peninsula.
Textbooks have been written with his moral stories in mind, and these days, many self-help book are also incorporating his wisdom. His most popular stories are, 'Mother Tongue', 'Cursed Face', 'Saluting the Donkeys' and many more. Through these stories, Tenali Raman, in some way, brought about social justice. Perhaps this is why he is most beloved by many people even today.
Keywords: Tenali Raman, Vijayanagar empire, Krishnadevaraya, Jester, Wisdom
It must be noted that different religions and societies in Southeast Asia have alternative narratives of Ramayana, one of the greatest epic.
Here are some of the versions of Ramayana!
Dasaratha Jakarta: The Buddhist Version
Interestingly, this version of Ramayana does not mention Ravana at all and in fact, there’s no mention of Sita’s abduction, too. In this version, Dasaratha is the king of Benaras and not Ayodhya. Also, Rama and Sita leaves kingdom and go to the Himalayas and not forests. Then, after twelve years, Rama and Sita return back to Benaras and get married.
Paumachariya: The Jaina Version
In this version, Lakshamana is the killer of Ravana and not Rama. Here, Rama is an ardent follower of Jainism, and so he cannot be the killer of Ravana. Also, this version states an army of warrior and not monkeys, as stated in Valmiki’s Ramayana. Another interesting feature of this version is that Ramayana is not shown as a villain, rather a magnanimous king and follower of Jainism.
Gond Ramayani: The Gond Version
Gond is an adivasi clan belonging from Madhya Pradesh in India. Interestingly, in this version, the story begins from where Valmiki’s Ramayana ended; when Sita is rescued from captivity. Also, Bhima, one of the Pandavas from the epic of Mahabharata, is mentioned in this version. Unlike Valmiki’s Ramayana, Rama is not the protagonist in this version.
Ramakien: The Thai Version
This is considered as Thailand's national epic, and is still taught in some schools in the country. In this version, Ravana is shown as a learned scholar and a noble king in this version. Also, Ravana’s pursuit for Sita is depicted as true love. There are a lot of similarities between this version of Ramayana and Valmiki’s version, but this version lays a lot of emphasis on Hanuman.
When a baby is born in an Indian household-they invite hijra to shower the newborn with their blessings for their blessings confer fertility, prosperity, and long life on the child. But when that child grows up we teach them to avert their eyes when a group of hijras passes by, we pass on the behaviour of treating hijras as lesser humans to our children. Whenever a child raises a question related to gender identity or sexuality they are shushed down. We're taught to believe that anything "deviant" and outside of traditional cis-heteronormativity is something to be ashamed of. This mentality raises anxious, scared queer adults who're ashamed of their own identity, and adults who bully people for "queer behaviour".
Hijras are a community of people who include eunuchs, intersex, and transgender people. They worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata. Most hijras, but not all, choose to undergo a castration ceremony known as "nirvana" in which they remove their male genitalia as an offering to their goddess. The whole community is vibrant with hundreds of people with hundreds of ways of expression, the true identity of a hijra is complex and unique to each individual. In India, hijras prefer to refer to themselves as Kinner/Kinnar as it means the mythological beings who excel at singing and dancing.
Hijras worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata.homegrown.co.in
The hijra community works systematically, the community separates itself from the outside world and teaches lessons to the young ones in secret. Each community has a guru and the other hijras are their disciples or chela. The "hijra ways of life" are taught to the disciples in a secluded environment where they leave their families and live with other hijras in the community. More often than not hijras are thought of as nothing different from transgender and often referred to as transgender; however, scientifically these two terms denote a different class of people. Hijras are a part of the whole community of people with various identities and of spiritual and cultural values meanwhile, transgender merely refers to those people whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth, they are a part of the community and do not represent the whole community.
Follow NewsGram on Facebook to stay updated.
Historically and culturally the community has existed in the Indian subcontinent as long as the civilization has existed. There are mentions of hijra in The Mahabharata, a holy book of Hindus. Shikhandi who was neither male nor female is a mythological legend. In another version of Mahabharata Arjuna, one of the Pandavas was cursed to be the third gender by Urvashi, when he refused to be sexually involved with her. In a story by Padma Purana, it is seen that Arjuna transforms into a woman to take part in Krishna's mystical dance which only women can take part in. The Hijra figures are prominent in Indian Mughal History as well, referred to as Khwaja Siras and known for their loyalty to the ruler, they worked as the sexless watchdogs of the Mughal harems. They held important positions in court and various facets of administration during Mughal-era India, from the 16th to 19th century. The Hijra community is a testament to the sexual diversity that is integral yet often forgotten in Indian culture.
If the whole hijra community was looked upon with enamor and respect in our history, what happened that when we come across the community we look at them with contempt and are filled with a mixture of negative, fear, laughter, and odd emotions. It's owing to the fact that under British Raj, the Criminal tribes Act 1871 hijras were criminalized and the law was made to eradicate the whole community. However, these acts were abolished by the Indian government after independence, and by 2014, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh all had officially recognized third gender people as citizens deserving of equal rights where the third gender means individuals categorizing themselves as neither male nor female. Even though the progress is slow but in 2015 Madhu Kinnar became the first hijra mayor in India was elected in the city of Raigarh.
ALSO READ: India's first Residential Transgender
Although the hijra community was revered by society and is invited to births and weddings for religious and spiritual ceremonies, they still become victims of abuse and discrimination. Violence and hate crimes against the community have become common. They are deprived of education, job opportunities, seating in restaurants, etc. leading them to live in poor conditions barely surviving. They often have to resort to begging and prostitution to earn a daily living. The government has tried to address this issue by introducing bills for the protection of the hijra community, with prison terms and other punishments for those offending them, but there is little to no less effect on the social stigma against the community.
In India, the hijra community comes under the umbrella term LGBTQ+ and we notice that they lack voice and representation when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. We need to understand that when we fight for LGBTQ+ rights we fight for the whole community, we fight for hijras who have been victims of violence, hate crimes, and disrespect from none other than the people of our society. And although hijras are a part of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, they have an independent subculture of their own. It is worth every effort to know about them, to study about them, to befriend them, and to smile at them for they are every bit of human as we are and they have nothing but blessings in their heart.